Green in the winter

By Matt Peckham, Opinions Editor

Winter is near. Even if the green of the grass and leaves are hibernating, there are plenty of ways and reasons to keep thinking green over the holidays.

First, get a Thermos. Per CNN, 50 billion U.S. coffee cups end up in landfills each year, and this is enough to span the moon and back roughly five times. As the United States Census Bureau estimates, the July 2016 U.S. population to be 323,127,513. The per capita disposable coffee cup waste is 155 annually. The Census’ population includes many adults and children who do not drink coffee, so the 155 coffee cups of waste is actually higher in those who drink coffee. Switching to a Thermos or visiting coffee shops that provide mugs in the cold winter months can help curb this waste.

Second, avoid holiday weight gain. The “Star Tribune” claims that the average person gains a pound during the holidays. Mayo Clinic defines a pound as roughly 3500 calories. Fitbit places a quarter-pound hamburger at 330 calories and 100 grams of broccoli at 32 calories. A pound of beef requires 1847 gallons of water according to “The Huffington Post.” When a person avoids the 3500-calorie holiday weight gain, the person saves roughly 4897.32 gallons of water if beef is the cut dietary product.

Third, turn down the thermostat. California’s Energy Commission Consumer Energy Center shows that energy bills reduce by 5 percent per degree reduction. The National Parks Service reports that a 3-degree winter thermostat decrease paired with a 3-degree summer thermostat increase saves 1,050 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Putting on a sweatshirt or socks rather than the heat is cost effective and sustainable. Visit non-refrigerated skating rinks. Per the City of Evanston, Ill., a standard refrigerated ice rink, one that uses machinery to cool its ice, uses 600,000 to 2 million kilowatts of electricity. An XcelEngery study claims up to 42 percent of this consumption goes into the refrigeration process. Skating at a rink that uses only winter air for maintenance is more energy efficient than paying to use and supporting a refrigerated ice rink.

Drive less and do not idle. The “Washington Post” reveals that cars are 12 percent less fuel efficient in twenty-degree weather than in seventy-seven-degree weather, and that 1.6 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are from idling cars. Limited fossil fuel resources and harmful greenhouse gas emissions result from winter driving practices. If one must drive, the average car needs no more than thirty seconds to warm up. So do not be as misguided as the average American who believes it takes up to five minutes of inefficient fuel use to warm up a car.

Use alternative gift wrapping methods. Stanford found that if every person used recycled gift-wrapping materials for just three presents, it would save 45,000 football fields of paper waste. Choosing newspaper or a bag rather than gift wrap can chip away at a big resource hog. Hiding presents rather than wrapping them can bring a fresh tradition and bout of energy to the gift giving process while saving even more paper.

Reduce the energy consumption of holiday lights. Holiday lights serve no practical purpose but to be looked at. However, the many who refuse to break from tradition have power-saving options. The MN Pollution Control Agency reports that LED holiday lights use 90 percent less energy than standard holiday lights. Turning lights off during the day coupled with efficient holiday lights save energy. Merry environmentalism!

This article first appeared in the Friday, December 1, 2017, Edition of The Echo.